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Fear sells, huh? I don’t buy it.

Here’s one from the archive (2010) for all the new StainsTM recruits from TEDx Sheffield. 😀 Let’s continue the two way conversation with femcare companies.

Since the beginning of the feminine hygiene industry, companies have tried to sell their products to us by using the fear of leaking blood through our clothes, leaving a huge stain and even huger shame.

From ‘certain-safe’ Modess pledging to protect us from ‘striking through’ in 1935, to today’s LeakLock®, Four Walled Protection®, Clean SorbTM Cover, and the physics-defying Always Infinity®, fear has always been a factor.

Today, companies are taking it a step further from reality by giving their products names that sound like clothes to ensure that we’ve got leaking on our minds from the start. SkirtsTM, PearlsTM, BraidsTM, SilkTM? It’s as if without these products we’ll be naked, and be forced to pay attention to our bodies.

But we say: enough of the subliminal sabotage. Today, Adventures in Menstruating is gonna go one better. We’ve got a way to undermine this sort of feminine hygiene ad once and for all. We’re gonna debunk, demystify and disempower leakage fear by turning the stain into an object of desire.

An object of beauty.

High fashion.

Clot couture.

Too gross? Ok don’t panic. We don’t believe you need to use real blood to reclaim.

Let’s call it Leak Chic.

Introducing…StainsTM. A removable stain to wear on your own clothing as you see fit. A fashion statement that really says something, and that something is, ‘Screw you, Madison Avenue. I’m taking this one back. I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve and my blood on my pants. I’m gonna reclaim the stain, reclaim my blood, and reclaim my period.’ Because people, I’m telling you red is the new black.

Introducing our new fashion line (and possibly the only fashion line ever brought out by a zine) featuring the only logo no other company will try to steal.

So, doesn’t matter what gender you are or whether you menstruate or not – just for goofs. Goofs and solidarity, please join us by adding a stain to your stylings. Copy or download the pattern above, affix to your clothing in any medium you like (iron-on, felt cut-out, screen print, stencil…) and remember that the best defence against leaks and stains is a healthy dose of shamelessness.

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It’s time to move on from Advertising 101.

So, TEDx Sheffield and Docfest were amazing! I had a great time, met more awesome people than I can count on both hands and feet, saw fascinating talks and outstanding films.  I really enjoyed sharing my femcare advertising  deconstructions in a new setting, and collected exactly two more of those visceral reactions to people hearing the name of the zine.  Then, last night, someone mentioned the most recent Femfresh campaign.

The latest Femfresh ad campaign (slogan: Whatever you call it, love it.) uses euphemisms for your vagina and tells you that if you know what’s good for you (it?) you’ll buy their stuff. That loving it (yourself?) means using their product.

Now, I’ve said in the zine, on here, and live: we’re self-cleaning, like ovens, so we don’t need this stuff, and if we really loved ourselves, we wouldn’t accept these messages from advertisers. But that hasn’t stopped them using the same techniques in the Femfresh campaign (which you can look up online – I’m loath to link it here and send web traffic  toward a femcare company, although their Facebook page is rife with rebuttals and is actually being rather amusingly hijacked, if you care to check it out) over sixty years after this ad…

Zonite, 1950, from the Ad*Access archive.

Now. This Zonite ad, from the Duke University Ad*Access archive in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, is one of the first ads I deconstructed in Adventures in Menstruating #1, and the first I showed in the Pecha Kucha and TEDx talks. Same messages as the Femfresh ad: euphemisms instead of grown-up words, buy their stuff to sort it out ASAP, and creating the solution for an imaginary problem that they’ve also, conveniently, hyped up.

That was 1950. This is 2012. It’s time to move on.

What I did on my summer vacation.

This has been one heck of a summer. It’s been very busy, and very exciting. I’m going to put up some photos with captions and tell you all about it. I was a speaker at a Pecha Kucha talk, we went to Edinburgh, I did two readings in New York and got stranded in a hurricane, and in between, the zines were in an exhibition at Site Gallery in Sheffield.  Come back to this post soon for more.

Tonight!

If you’re in Sheffield, please come along – it’s now standing room only!

Pecha Kucha #6.

Hate ‘moisture’? You’ll love these.

So Johnson & Johnson’s Canadian division’s just launched a new Stayfree campaign that I found out about when a Toronto reporter contacted me for an article she was writing. The campain is a series of viral youtube videos that simulate a date with one of three archetypal ‘Mr. Rights’, segue into a product testing situation, and conclude with an offer of a coupon for a free pack of pads.

Now, you can’t argue with free stuff, and the viral nature of the campaign is a good hook to try and get women who have brand loyalty but who might be persuaded to swap, but I think it’s the pads market going for tampon users. A virtual date with attractive thirty-something guys with careers, skills and hobbies? That’s the top half of the 18-34 demographic and I’m pretty sure I remember reading we’re mostly tampon users, though a lot of people have swapped to reusable menstrual cups, so I think on that front these ads aren’t going to work. They’ve already got a couple of things working against them, and only the free stuff in their favour.

Then there’s the length of those ads – two-and-a-half minutes of talking nonstop and the woman’s just nodding? I ramble on about menstruation, but I do let people get a word in edgeways.

Taking the ads as a whole, the ‘I’m on a horse’ Old Spice ad surreal shift to product testing mid date is funny, and the fact that it is so much of a cliché is in keeping with the new ‘tongue in cheek’ ad style, but the message is all wrong. It’s interesting that comedy femcare ads are happening now (this is the third big comedy campaign after Mother Nature and the role reversal Kotex ones, and the nth viral…). I may have no show left to do soon because I’ve parodied femcare ads for the past five years and now they’re parodying themselves. Maybe they’ve been reading my zine. Still though, I wish they’d stop making the same old mistakes. Periods don’t need to be invisible, they don’t need to be negative, and they don’t stand alone – they’re part of a whole biological process and not a creepy ‘other’ that women ‘suffer from’. They’re too inconsistent to be properly funny. If they’re going to go to all that effort, they’d do better to leave out the negative messages. But I’m making sweeping generalisations. Let’s break it down. Here’s where they go wrong on their dates:

Brad The Chef:

They’ve missed a trick with the tomato sauce spilling on the chef’s shirt. It figures that the first time ever there’s a red stain in a femcare ad it’s on a dude.

Then he says “I like thinness, don’t you?” Ok so body image obsessed then…  Fail. 

Ryan The Toymaker:

Stereotype of the do-gooder, check. Good effort. But then he says, “I hate moisture.” (Like it’s evil.)  “Don’t you just hate moisture?” And then the camera…nods?

Dismissive euphemism for blood aside, if they both hate moisture, that is going to be one…chaste relationship.

Moisture? Liquid? They may have tried to appear ‘brave’ or ‘savvy’ by sticking a dude in the ad, but Stayfree doesn’t have the ovaries to use red liquid or say blood? In 2010? Either would be fine. Their version of the visual and the vocab makes menstruation disappear…in an ad for maxipads.

Finally, the killer for Ryan is when he says, “It’s not fair that you should have to experience this every month. It’s just not fair.”

I’m assuming that’s part of the parody – the middle distance stare, the reverent whisper – but the pitying tone means we’ve just been equated with homeless cats (one of the cats is named ‘Spazz’ – in England, that term is really offensive…) and disadvantaged children in our ‘inability’ to cope with menstruation. We are disadvantaged. Poor us.

Doctor Trev:

Ok, feminine hygiene ad deconstruction aside, Trevor doesn’t know how to vacuum. Either that or I don’t. All I know is, if I were doing it that way, I’d wanna be doing it better, so the whole ‘here’s a man who can hoover’ thing doesn’t work.   Again another stain, but this time it’s pit stains, and we’re allowed to see real pit stains. Why isn’t that blue liquid?

It’s hilarious by the way that there is a red logo on the back of his pants – I thought he had a stain on them for a minute.

Then he says, “Wow, just look at all that messy liquid. I tell ya, if I could go through this experience every month instead of you, I would.”

He thinks he’s saying he’ll menstruate. He’ll be a hero and take one for the team. What? He and Stayfree don’t seem to be aware that they’re signing him up for a whole lot more than that.  He can offer to swap reproductive organs if he wants, but he may end up in it for the whole nine yards and the whole nine months, should anyone be able to take him up on that. One of main problems with femcare advertising is they literally bank on us thinking blood’s gross. But menstruation is just one small part of a much bigger reproductive process. Is he offering to get pregnant and  give birth for me? Cool. It’d be nice if he were jealous and was like pining for the chance to menstruate, but he’s painting it as though he’s the saviour who can rescue us from misery.

Many women have periods that are not that bad. You just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t sell anything. No extra heavy flow pads, no super absorbent tampons and no contraceptive pills or painkillers if it’s all going fine.

Bottom line, a guy being down with periods is great, and to find that out on a first date with him is even better, but the ‘I know best’ attitude, parody or not, when combined with the blood’s ‘gross’ and ‘can’t be mentioned’ and ‘it’s such a burden to you’ is whack, and not what I’m looking for.

And finally, I tried to get in touch with the Commercial Production Association of Toronto, to ask what the statistical chances were of it being a guy behind the camera. They weren’t answering.

New Year, New Zine, New Distro…

Everything’s just new, new, new, I think. Except for the snow. That’s getting a little old, actually, even the new snow. Bleurgh. All our travel – local and international – has been messed up. Even walking to the shop. My fleece-lined wellies have seen far more action than my t-strap maryjanes in recent weeks, and I’m cross.

EXCEPT that everything else is NEW NEW NEW. I have to keep reminding myself (and you should too) that even though the weather is being pre-post-apocalyptic, there are some cool things afoot.

The new zine issue is out, and the New Yorkers liked it. Now, I’m sorry, England. You may say that people from the US have no irony, but you clearly have not spent enough time in NYC.  The Lower East Side could kick your ass with irony, and they liked the zine. So I stand by ‘the New Yorkers liked it’.  

The first distro to carry it (because there was no postal system or blizzard involved) is our good friend Erin’s new distro, Things You Say

The name’s from a Sleater-Kinney song, but also, handily, refers to the communicatey-ness (real word) of zines. Erin’s working on a new zine, and her blog, Bi-Coastal Gimps, is in the blogroll to your right, and you can read our zines blurbs on her catalogue page. Erin is also slightly addicted to Sarah’s cookies, which we discovered when we visited her over Christmas, and knows a Chinese restaurant where you can do your ordering like it’s an online catalogue. It was amazing.

We’ll post some pictures from our trip up on the facebook fanpage later in the week. You can become a fan by clicking that link on the right over there. Unless you’re reading this on your phone, in which case you’ll have to type ‘Adventures in Menstruating’ into the facebook search bar. Wow, I feel like one of those people in an infomertial or on Blues Clues where I’m referring to things on a screen that I know you know I really can’t see right now.

Stay tuned for more about our New York trip, some new work of ours, more details about upcoming events, and some new Second Place Awards we’re happy to bestow.

Happy New Year!

Chella

Issue #5 and NYC!

Hey were here, we’re queer and the new zines are here! Grab us on facebook if you’re in NY/NJ if you want to meet up!